Hugh Grant: hacked off again at PM's 'betrayal' of press victims
Meanwhile, Guardian's rivals round on the paper for supporting the press charter Grant wants
HACKED OFF campaigner Hugh Grant accused David Cameron this morning of "betraying the victims" of newspaper hacking, being guilty of an “abuse of democracy” and “sabotaging” the proposals for a Royal Charter to regulate the press for the first time.
Grant, who normally plays daffy fops in Hollywood rom-coms, went tonto on Radio 4's Today programme after Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced a further delay in the adoption of a press charter until 30 October so that further talks could be held with the press to try to reach a deal.
The Privy Council had been due to put its seal to the charter today. But the delay has sparked fears among the Hacked Off campaigners that Cameron and Miller are seeking a further compromise with the press.
Grant revealed that since 18 March, when all three parties signed up to a plan to introduce independent regulation of the press with a Royal Charter, Miller has held nine meetings with 15 top newspaper executives but none with the Hacked Off campaign or the victims.
He said the Leveson report had been watered down by Cameron and Miller who “seem to do anything they can to oblige the press barons. Our executive are basically in hock to the big newspaper barons. They are terrified of the press.
"Our democratic system may not be perfect but it’s not bad. If you have all the parties in Parliament voting for a Royal Charter that everyone has agreed on and then part of the executive – the Conservative part of a coalition government – does everything in its power to sabotage that, you have an abuse of democracy going on here.”
Echoing his performance in Love Actually where he plays a smoothie PM who stands up to the power of the Americans, Grant thundered: “The victims of press abuse – people like the McCanns, the Dowlers and Christopher Jeffries - consider any compromise would be a betrayal of promises by the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary… The Prime Minister is now betraying those victims and he is betraying his own promises.”
Grant has some reason to be worried about Cameron’s cosying up to the likes of News International. During the Leveson inquiry, it was revealed embarrassing personal text messages were sent to Cameron by News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks (now facing a criminal trial) including "Will love love working together". They also famously went horse-riding together at her neighbouring estate in the Cotswolds.
Labour leader Ed Miliband – who had his own run-in with the Daily Mail over his Marxist father last week – is absolutely in agreement with Grant. So is Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and deputy Prime Minister.
But the Tories are instinctively cautious and Miller has been privately accused by her own side of losing the plot by allowing Ed Miliband to run rings round her. The 18 March charter was agreed over pizza in his Opposition leader’s room with Hacked Off in attendance.
But the political dogfight is nothing compared to the dogfight in Fleet Street. There is an old newspaper rule that dog does not bite dog. But this morning the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph have sunk their canines into The Guardian, accusing it of helping terrorists by publishing the leaks about intercepted messages from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower.
There is a strong suspicion that today’s attack on the Guardian has been fuelled by resentment by the Mail and the Telegraph boardrooms that the Guardian, along with the Independent and the FT, have broken ranks with their competitors and support the Royal Charter.
And it’s going to get worse. Roger Alton, executive editor of The Times, which also fiercely opposes the charter, told Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight yesterday that the idea that the papers are going to roll over and accept defeat was for the birds.
Alton said that the newspapers could seek a judicial review or "go to Europe" to argue that the Royal Charter is an unjust law. This is a row that could still be running up to the 2015 general election. ·